This post is authored by BloodyElbow.com's Features Editor Jonathan Snowden.
While UFC 129 was headlined by Georges St. Pierre, Canadian hero and the man seemingly destined to take mixed martial arts into the mainstream, the fighter who was really supposed to benefit the most from the evening's record crowds and the pay per view spotlight was UFC featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo. Aldo had made his way to the top of his division in the late World Extreme Cagefighting, the UFC's little brother promotion on Versus. Outside the bright lights, he shined the way few others have before, snapping off soul stealing leg kicks and ending fights out of nowhere with preposterous jumping knees and thunderous right hands.
Last night the world was supposed to bear witness to the Jose Aldo phenomenon. The broader fanbase, beyond the few hundred thousand who watched WEC events before the promotion was canned, were supposed to learn to love Aldo the way the hardcores do. After all, knockout power is hardly a nuance that can only be loved by the sport's diehards. Aldo was a potential crossover star, a Brazilian Mike Tyson without the impending criminal charges. Expecting a 145 pound destroyer, fans saw an over muscled and plodding fighter who was gassed after a single round. Mark Hominick, his Canadian opponent, was the kind of fighter Aldo seemed destined to destroy. Hominick has been completely ordinary throughout his nine year career, never seriously considered one of the sport's best. His title shot was built with wins over the dubious quartet of Caraway, Jaboiun, Garcia, and Roop. Hominick was the sacrificial lamb, one almost manufactured from nothing to provide Aldo his moment.
Hominick, to his credit, wasn't willing to do what was expected. Instead, he out fought Aldo in almost every round, catching him flat footed and working nicely behind a smooth jab. Aldo, sold by announcers Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg as one of the world's pound for pound best fighters, didn't look the part. His power saved him. Although Hominick's technique was better, when Aldo did land, he landed with fight changing force.
It was enough to skate by with a decision. But the idea of headlining a card with Aldo after this debacle has to be thrown out the window - at least for now. Lightweight stars watched Jose Aldo last night and their mouths are likely still watering today. The list of established fighters willing to drop ten pounds to challenge Aldo already includes former 155 pound contender Kenny Florian. After last night it's only going to grow longer. Aldo looked vulnerable, helpless off his back, and quick to tire.
Another lesson learned, one we've seen played out time and time again in the combat sports arena. You don't build pound for pound greats in marketing meetings or by creating the coolest highlight package. You don't build them by feeding them fighters you think they can beat. The best of the best earn that title in the cage, by styling on the greatest fighters in the world. Jose Aldo may get there one day - but last night proved with a certainty that he isn't one of the sport's elite.